This started out as a request from Landing Failure for some Jaya/Oros fluff. Unfortunately, when the muse struck, she struck while I was high on pain medication, and what came out was less fluff and more softcore porn. 9_9 (Excuse me while I adjust my halo...) Therefore there is a steaminess warning on this chapter. No reading at work, guys!

Music for this vignette is (obviously) Undisclosed Desires, by Muse. Timeline is circa ch.25 of the Lay.


There's a woman wearing crimson in the half-lit practice ring, shining like a beacon in the night, and I know without having to ask that she's waiting for me.

Back and forth, back and forth she paces, regular and smooth as a pendulum, armor clicking and clinking, the rivets shining silver through the scarlet enamel on the pieces of her platemail. Her gauntleted hands are clasped at the small of her back, her step measured, deliberate. Her face is helmed, her visor peaked in the front, smooth on the sides, marred only by two narrow slits for her gaze. I can't see so much as an inch of her beneath the metal suit.

She sees me, turns, lifts a hand, not quite in welcome and not quite in derision. I grin ferociously; she inclines her masked face in my direction. Embraces the challenge.

I can't help but like her immediately.

She has no weapon, but that isn't a problem - I have two. Can't give her the Word, so the nameless blade instead, shining just as she is, only white instead of red. It comes from the scabbard smoothly with a noise like silk whispering across steel. I throw it to her hilt-first, over the gap between us, mountains-wide; she catches it one-handed, her fingers around the haft a fated thing, the blade seemingly crafted more for her grip than mine.

She charges. Fearless.

She's quick - quicker than I give her credit for. In seconds she's on me, and the Word diverts the white sword away from biting into my shoulder, my side, my leg, the blows flurried, skilled. No quarter given nor asked for, on either side, and I respect her more for it. The water-edge of the steel gleams with her light, flashes through my darkness.

We separate. A mark on my leathers, cosmetic, no more. A scratch in the bloodlike enamel of her armor. The Word is roused, woken; it can sense the woman in red, and though the Balaur-blade is not a thinking creature, it is old, and old magic accrues awareness. It does not speak, not in words, but it tells me nevertheless that she is Daeva, that there is no need for me to restrain myself; that I cannot kill the woman in crimson without intent. That I can relax my discipline, lower my guard, cut loose. Reach out. Stretch free.

I shake off its influence. The desires of the Word are the desires of the Balaur. I cannot afford to heed its counsel.

I cannot afford to lack vigilance.

No matter how much I might yearn to -

Bootsteps silent, I pace a sidelong ring around the woman in red; she turns upon the axis of her pride-of-place, facing me always, guarding now, defensive, as is her wont. One leg takes more weight than the other; I see that the relaxed one is painted with white flames that twine ivylike up her calf. The limp is slight, a killdeer-feint, bait I know too well to snatch at.

Silence, stillness. I can feel her eyes upon me through her helm, assessing. Studious.

Critical.

Mocking.

I move, wings in the night. She rises gloriously to meet me, and the tangle this time is prolonged, our crossguards locked, the Word and the white blade half-fused under our combined strength. She shoulders into me, brutish, but my feet are sure, my stance wide; she cannot unbalance me so easily. I free a hand from the hilt of the Word, scrabble at her armor, and under my fingertips a piece of the enameled metal tears away like bark from the wood-core, reveals the glittering fishscale sea of mail beneath, untarnished, pewter-bright -

She retreats. Blood drips from my cheek where she has scored me with her edge, rolls along my jaw to fall pat-pat-pattering against the stone at my feet.

The plate-piece is still in my hand, warm from her body, fragrant with polish. Negligent, I roll it off my fingers, over my shoulder, into darkness.

She thinks I'm cocky. Sloppy. Arrogant. I can see it in the way she stiff-legs to her former position like an angry cat, never once giving me her back. I slouch out my hip, play the part to the hilt; I want her angry. Want her not to think. Want her bleeding.

Just plain want her, when I'm honest enough with myself to admit it.

Another charge, angled, strange of balance. I know her limits almost as well as my own; when we disentangle again, another piece of her armor has fallen away, clanging to the floor. A rent gapes in my leathers, baring my throat to open air.

Her breath is harsh under her helmet, pluming like smoke in the cold air. I can almost see the defiance flashing in her eyes.

The Word writhes, seethes. Hungers. It wants her just as much as I do, and I cannot say with certainly that it wants her for different reasons.

We dance, and each of us knows intimately the steps. But she is tiring quickly; the next salvo, she is too slow to escape the chase. I reach, clawing, for her helmet; we tumble together to the floor, blades forgotten. My knee hits center of her breastplate, I have her pinned, and the scent of burning earth rises from the holes in her visor, acrid, intoxicating -

It distracts me, stirs things in my belly and my soul better left hidden, covered over. A moment of inattention; the heel of her gauntleted palm strikes upwards like an arrow, contacts with the lower side of my jaw, making my teeth meet so hard they near jar right out of my skull. We twist away from one another, stagger to our feet.

Hair lank with sweat and dark as rubies hangs from beneath her helm, flutters at her shouldercops.

Small victories.

I move again, swift as swift, and she never hesitates to meet me. The cataclysm cracks the white blade, near shatters it; the Word growls approvingly in the back of my mind, its appetite whetted now for the woman in red's destruction. We go down again, her legs tangled with mine, and she has rolled me onto my back when I sink my fingertips in the holes in her visor and rip her helmet free -

The Elyos prize beauty that is frail, fragile, delicate; among the Asmodians, to call a woman delicate is to insult her prowess as a warrior.

The woman in red is anything but delicate.

A mercury-quick gaze, liquid-hot with intensity of emotion. Dusky grey skin, a stubborn tilt to a full mouth, sharp-angled brows and cheekbones a man could dash himself to pieces on. She shines under her skin like she swallowed the sun, and I catch her scent when her faded-red hair brushes my wounded cheek, curls prickling into the cut there. She is powerful. Defiant. Fierce. Undoubtedly Asmodian, every inch.

Impossibly beautiful. It hurts to look at her.

I don't know if I want to kiss her or bite her, and the Word answers, both.

Anger transmutes. Desire like I have never known leaps to my belly, sinks lower, red silk stitched in jagged lines on black broadcloth; I abandon the Word and its unwanted interference, drag her down with both hands into a clinch just as she is deciding not to pull away. There are fangs in that kissable mouth, I discover when she nicks my tongue, bites down hard on my lip - copper taste of my blood on both our tongues, kinah-bright, is unbelievably erotic, makes my head light and my groin throb - my hands buried in her hair, wet with exertion, and hers in mine. Aether thrills down my skin everywhere we touch.

It is exactly like kissing bottled lightning.

I kick us over with a well-placed press of boot to stone, settle my knee between her flancharded thighs. I cannot have enough of her skin; she is tearing my leathers to pieces in her haste to bare me to the air, and she rips one gauntlet off, then the other, so that she can smooth her callused, careworn hands across my chest. It makes me shiver, makes my pulse jump. The image of her on her back below me is a powerful one, and as I wonder how she would look there, naked to the skin and trembling with want, I know already that there is no stopping myself until I find out.

Her armor is an impediment, now, and I am unable to remove it quickly enough for either one of us. She moans softly into my hair when I bite down on the lobe of her ear, back arched to press her chest up into me, claws scrabbling at my back, digging in, goading me onward. At last I win a slender triangle of skin, stretching from her neck to navel; I press a kiss to the cup of her collarbones, featherlight, and she shudders beneath me, fists her hand in my hair hard enough it hurts, whispers my name like a prayer to the god that has long forsaken us.

Begging and commanding in the same breath.

Both sides of who I am, the dark and the light, growl hungrily together, purposes united for the first time that I can remember.

I lower my head to the smooth dusky side of the column of her throat, and when I set my teeth to mark her mine, her claws leave scarlet furrows in my back, a price I gladly pay for the wine of her blood in my mouth.

xxxxx

I wake, aching and unfulfilled.

The dream clings like smoke; for long moments I lay there, tangled in the sheets, reliving the fleeting moments that already begin to fade from waking memory; when I arrive upon the face of my tormentor, however, cold flows and flowers along my sweat-drenched limbs.

An unforgivable sin, even one dredged up in the heat of dreams.

I am awake long before the sun rises. Long before that, pacing long rows in the dark of my suite, I have convinced myself that I do not want her, and never have. That it is a silly dream, and the dreams of Daevas are not always filled with truth.

Blasphemy and lies, even as they are formed in my mind, but without them, I will never look her in the eye again.

Not the first such dream. And not the last.

Never, never the last.